Missouri officially bans use of 'meat' to describe lab-grown meat

Following a vote back in May, a Missouri bill banning certain uses of the word "meat" has gone into effect. The legislation was backed by the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, among others who face increased competition from lab-grown and plant-based meat products. As of Tuesday, Missouri is the first state to restrict the use of the word meat to only slaughtered animals.

At the heart of the matter is a heated debate over what can be considered meat — some argue that it can be used to describe products intended for use as meat, even if they're not harvested from an animal, while others argue that it applies only to the flesh of livestock. A similar debate is exploring the use of the word milk for plant-based products.

Missouri's new bill went into effect yesterday, putting an end to the use of "meat" for anything other than animal flesh. The restriction doesn't only apply to planet-based protein dishes like Impossible Foods' meat-like products, but also lab-grown meat, which is produced from cultured cells instead of animals. A violation of the restriction could result in up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Critics view the bill as a step backward, putting up barriers to the consumer adoption of plant-based and, eventually, lab-grown meat. These products are often hailed as more environmentally-friendly, potentially more healthy, and cruelty-free alternatives to traditional livestock and poultry products. The meat industry has a different perspective.

The US Cattlemen's Association previously petitioned the US Department of Agriculture in an effort to restrict the use of the words "meat" and "beef" to only animals that are born, raised, and slaughtered. Critics point out that restricting the use of "meat" for lab-grown meat products could confuse buyers about the nature of what they're buying — it's still meat, after all, only it was produced in a lab instead of cut from an animal.